Moore Farms Botanical Garden has an impressive man-made bog, full of over 2,250 plants. Although it can seem intimidating to grow plants like this, anyone can create a small bog for their house and have great success growing all kinds of bog plants. We encourage anyone to create a bog to enjoy the beauty, rise to a challenge, grow amazing plants, or simply to have fun!
There are many ways to make a bog depending on the size you are aiming for and the resources you have available. You can use kiddie pools, plastic tubs, various pots with large dishes underneath for water, or plastic liners in the ground for a more permanent bog. If you’re interested in growing ornamental grasses or shrubs, the container should be at least 18 inches deep. For carnivorous plants, orchids, or ferns, around eight inches is deep enough.
For this blog, we’ll focus on smaller bogs that can be easily moved and created with supplies that are easy to find. You’ll need a Rubbermaid storage container to use as a water dish and a variety of pots with holes in both the bottom and the sides that will let water in.
The medium used for bogs is different than what would normally be used for planting. Create a peat-sand mix by using three parts peat to one part sand. This should be mixed up completely and fully saturated. Horticulturist Robert Davidson, who oversees the bog and native areas at the garden, emphasizes how important it is to have complete saturation during this step. “Peat absorbs and repels water at an equal rate so it takes a lot of mixing to achieve full saturation,” he said.
He also advises a two-week waiting period to allow the mixture to settle into your containers properly. “It takes some time to absorb all the water and since it will settle significantly, you should wait for it to settle before you plant anything,” Robert explained.
There certainly are a variety of options when it comes to what plants to put in your bog. This step is a fun opportunity to explore plants and research different varieties to use. The following plants are used at Moore Farms and thrive in the boggy growing conditions.
Pitcher plants (Sarracenia)
Milk wart (Polygala)
Meadow Beauty (Rhexia)
You can either grow these from seed or buy them after they’ve been germinated by someone else. Robert said, “It takes a lot longer to use seeds. There will be four years before a Sarracenia will bloom, so it generally is better to just order the plants.” When looking to order carnivorous plants, websites such as Aquascapes Unlimited Inc., Pitcherplant.org, Flytrap King, and Rare Find Nursery offer a range of plants to please everyone. You can also harvest them appropriately from the wild.
Where to keep it:
The location you choose can have a great impact on how your bog plants grow. First, find a location that is a level surface. It should also be in full sun to produce the best results. The more sun bog plants receive, the richer the colors will be. You can put it inside, but should position it by a window to get as much sunlight as possible. Finally, the area you pick needs to be somewhere visible to show off your unique plants and help you remember to water it frequently.
How much water:
Bogs need to be 40% saturated at all times. This can sometimes be hard to judge, but Robert has some tips for this dilemma. “Get a Rubbermaid that is half the height of your plant pots. Then you can just make sure that it’s filled up most of the way at all times,” he said. Although this can be tricky, Robert promises that once a bog is established, it’s almost easier to have a bog than a regular garden.
Although we’re talking about smaller bogs that are easier to judge water level, Robert recommends using corrugated pipe or PVC with holes in it to estimate water in a larger, in-ground bog. “Stick it into the bog vertically and then you can peer down it to get a feel for how wet the ground is,” he said.
These DIY bogs can be grown anywhere, but there are some seasonal considerations to make. In the winter, don’t water your bog as often. It can almost dry out, but not completely. Standing water is definitely a no-no because it will cause the crowns to rot. If in a colder area, bring the bog inside.
Now you may wonder if your carnivorous plants will die during the winter if you have to bring the container inside. Luckily, these plants are all still performing photosynthesis. They’ve adapted to eating bugs in order to supplement nutrients they were lacking in their native habitats. Many are nocturnal feeders and go for moths, beetle bugs, and ants. While isn’t necessary to have insects around, the carnivorous bogs plants will definitely be more robust with the supplement to their regular photosynthesis.
If you’re feeling adventurous, check out some of the natural bogs in the Carolinas. Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge and Green Swamp Preserve both have gorgeous bogs. If you’re out looking for one, they are often found under pines and cypress in low lying areas that have been maintained with fire and have an impermeable layer underneath it. They are commonly found around Carolina bays or pocosins.
Visit Moore Farms to see our bog garden! We are open for tours of 8 or more people, adult classes, family programs, and social events. Check out our upcoming event, The Sarracenia, that celebrates the beauty of pitcher plants and is sure to be an elegant, enjoyable day at the garden.
By Roberta Burns.